The quickest way to measure the distance traveled by Central Asian states since the 1991 Soviet implosion is to take a look at Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital.
Astana’s architectural makeover certainly contains hints of Soviet-style monumentalism, most notably evident in the new housing stock found around the city. But the capital’s showcase pieces, in particular Norman Foster’s Pyramid of Peace, signify a break with the Communist past.
This EurasiaNet.org audio-visual montage documents Astana’s transformation over the past two decades. From a dusty, backwater provincial city in 1991, Astana has quickly come to represent the changes brought about by Central Asia’s energy wealth.
Astana can trace its roots back to the 1820s, when a band of Russian Cossacks set up a military outpost on the site. It is intriguing to wonder what those Cossacks would have said if they had been told back then that the place would one day become the capital of an independent Kazakhstan.
Ikuru Kuwajima is a freelance photojournalist based in Almaty. Justin Burke is editor of EurasiaNet